Quebec's Finance Minister said citizens can expect tax cuts now that the province's finances are in order.
Carlos Leitao said that the province is once again operating in the black as he delivered a mid-year fiscal update.
With a $4.5 billion surplus, about $2.3 billion is being devoted to tax cuts, with the rest going to paying down the provincial debt.
"We said back in 2014 that we would allocate about half of any eventual surpluses to tax cuts, to lighten the tax burden because we recognize that Quebecers are the citizens the most heavily taxed in Canada," said Leitao.
On average, working Quebecers can expect a $278 tax break, while a family with two people earning $44,000 per year will get about $500 per person once the elimination of the healthcare contribution -- which happened last year -- is taken into account.
Parents with school-aged children (ages 4 to 16) will also get a cheque of $100 per child that is being earmarked for school supplies. That will be retroactive to September 2017.
"These tax cuts are intended to give the population some breathing space. It's something that we said we would do, something that we started doing already in 2015," said Leitao.
Meanwhile the province is going to increase spending on healthcare, education, and fighting poverty.
Leitao said he plans to spend $1.1 billion over six years on healthcare and education.
That will include:
- $630 million for health, including improving home care for seniors
- $337 million for early childhood education and hiring more specialists
- $107 million for higher education (hiring teachers and technicians)
He will also spend $2.6 billion over six years to reduce poverty.
"The objective is to lift about 100,000 people out of poverty. Whom are we targeting? We are targeting people that are currently on social assistance, on welfare, and people who don't have necessarily the ability to join the labour market," said Leitao. "It's that segment that we are targeting to lift out of poverty."
With marijuana being legalized next year, Quebec will also devote funding to education about the drug, and treating cannabis addiction.
The Finance Ministry has also launched a website where individuals can calculate how much they will get as a tax rebate.
Parti Quebecois Finance critic Nicolas Marceau said the budget surplus is the direct result of spending cuts in necessary areas.
"The better economy that we have observed in the last year has helped but it is impossible for that to generate the kind of surplus that we have observed. Impossible! I mean the figures do not add up," said Marceau.
Leitao said on Tuesday that the province never cut funding--that instead he slowed the rate of spending increases in many departments, because increasing spending at previous rates was unsustainable.
Carl Vallée of the Canadian Taxpayers' Federation is happy with the announced cuts but said he'd like to see Quebec's entrepreneurs given more incentives to create wealth and minimize the role of federal transfer payments.
"Every year the Quebec government spends about $103 billion. Eleven of those 103 are actually coming from the hands of the other provinces because we are highly, highly dependent," said Vallée.
Leitao said that small businesses would be on his mind as he prepares the next budget, which he expects to deliver in March 2018.